Monday, 15 November 2010

Its Chriiiiistmas!

Ooh are you getting excited yet? I start getting giddy at the end of August - seriously. There is so much to do and I always run out of time - and I always have a whinge about how much I 'need' to do but I'll let you into a secret ...I love it!

Around this time, I start to think about the Christmas traditions that we have..I know that each family has different ones and I love hearing about them.

One of ours is each betting to guess what colour the Queen is wearing for her speech (not that we tend to watch it, we are normally sitting down for Christmas dinner with a port and lemon at that point). We have a maximum 50p bet - Gamblers Anonymous please don't be alarmed - its only once a year! Its hard work managing to avoid what she's wearing as it is normally on the news the week before but well worth it.

A friend of mine's Dad insists on going downstairs first shouting bye to Father Christmas down the drive saying 'See you next year!" - She is 35 and married with her own son but they won't stop that tradition.

What are your traditions at Christmas? Share them -you may start a craze!

PS The photo is from Christmas 2008 in our living room - Another tradition, the house is a tip in 2 seconds flat!

Monday, 8 November 2010

A quick update ...

Hi to anyone who is still brave enough to lurk around! I've been missing in action for quite a while now but wanted to check in briefly to explain why. I have so many wonderful plans for the blog but something always stops me from posting until now. I always feel that the blog post has to be 'worthy' of posting or have something unique to say but really who cares if it is only a tiny post - I know when I come across blogs that have short posts I am more likely to read until the end - Hell, we are all pressed for time!

So what's coming up?

Well, the biggest addition to the Costello family will be our new baby due end of Feb - I am looking forward to how life will change since we had our last child in 2006. I know I am actively going to have to search for Mum & Baby activities - St Helens isnt the most cosmopolitan of places - come along and join the fun!

There's tons of book reviews, some product reviews, mishaps & misdemeanours from the rest of the Costello clan and don't forget my other food/cake blog which is here

This post didn't end up being that short did it?

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

A magical trip to Build-a-Bear

We were really lucky a couple of weeks ago to be offered a chance to review a trip to Build-a-Bear in Liverpool. This is our nearest store but there are loads of others nearby too - find your nearest here.

The trip was arranged by the lovely Estelle at Publicasity - As if we'd need asking twice to go!

Up until a year ago I had never ventured into a Build-a-bear thinking how good can it be? The answer is ...very good! My 2 girls, age 8 and 4 just think a trip there is magical and to be honest so do I!

When we arrived at the Liverpool store, everyone that greeted us was really friendly and this treatment carried on all the way through our visit - there were other customers that had queries and it was lovely to see that they were treated kindly and courteously too.

There are loads of bears to choose from, from your more traditional looking teddy bears to your bears of the moment - think Hello Kitty!

Once the bears are chosen, its off to stuff them (with love of course!) and give them their own sound (and even a beating heart if you like!) It would take a heart of stone not to love watching your children go through the ritual of giving the bears their love, letting them know they will think of them and care for them.

Stuffing the bears with love ... sniff!

After that its time to start to look for the outfit - Oh my goodness, these bears have got better wardrobes than me! Just have just got to love the little knickers with space for their tails to go through. And the handbags!! And the little glasses!!!
The oh-so cute knickers!

There is a seasonal section which at the moment is Halloween - They are very of the moment you know! My girls went for the more everyday wear in matching outfits and I swear on the way home we saw a girl wearing the exact same skirt! It was nearly longer than the bear's!
The Halloween section - Do they sell that purple dress in size 10? (ahem!)
Our assistant was Lorna, who I'm sure loved posing for her photo taken - seriously though, she was fantastic for the kids and really encouraged them to pick what 'suits' the bear - I can imagine they are great at parties.

All-in-all our visit took about 50 minutes which I think is about the norm - I would like to thank the staff at Liverpool, Build-a-Bear for making my girls' weekend - they have not stopped playing with them since. A highly recommended experience and one that can be added to at Christmas and Birthday time.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Book Review - Like Bees to Honey - Caroline Smailes

It is safe to say I loved everything about this book - from the wonderful cover, the clever title and most of all the completely original story. I do not want to give too much away about the story as part of it being so special to me was that I knew nothing about it. It was completely different to anything I have ever read but really sucked me in.
The book does detail Malta (a place I had never really considered visiting but now would go in a shot!). There are some really emotional parts but not in a sickly way.
It felt like a really grown up book and I wanted to tell people about it when I was reading it in public!
Please read - you will love it!

I will be doing a book giveaway including this book on the 24th/25th July so keep your eyes peeled!

I also have to do a little bit of showing off now - I was lucky enough to meet Caroline at the book launch for Like Bees to Honey (she is a delight) and as a little pressie I took her some cupcakes with obviously a Bee/Honey theme - Here they are...(shameless plug!)

Book Review - The Help - Kathryn Stockley

I have never really belived it when people say that they purposely put down a book so they didn't finish it too soon - hell, if you are enjoying something make the most of it! However, for the first time a book had that effect on me. As soon as I started this book it felt like one I would enjoy - The writing is warm and the characters rich and interesting.
There are 3 main characters, Aibeleen, Minny and Miss Skeeter - My favourite was Minny who seemed to have a massive personality. There was everything in this book, lots of humour, mystery, a sense of dread (I was really nervous about the way the little girl Mae Mobley was treated).
This book did take a while to read but never felt a chore and I have really missed it since it was gone.
It felt very original and a story that could not be turned into a format read.
Would love to read another by Kathryn Stockley - she has a writing gift I wish I had!

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Personalised Toy Sack - Product Review

I just love gingham and worship anything personalised for me or my girls - particularly as Violet struggles so much to find items with her name on them - Beware! Mums and Dads - having an 'unusual' name is not always good!

When I was asked to review an item from The Last Detail, I knew straightaway what I would choose. What parent doesn't crave for new ways of tidying the endless toys away?

When the bag arrived I was delighted with its size and the quality - the lettering is really secure and the stitching so neat! This makes an ideal addition to any little (or big) girl's bedroom!

I did have a slight concern though (Non-paranoid parents might not feel the same) - I worried about little V slipping the strings around her neck and strangling herself - I have no hooped cords on blinds around the house for that reason!

To change this I have snipped the cord and added ends to the cord so they don't slip through - easy peasy!

The Last Detail site is gorgeous - well worth a mooch - bet you don't come away with an empty basket!

I love this sack - Thank you!

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Motherhood leads to these 9!

When this week's subject for Tara Cain's Gallery was announced as Motherhood - I knew straightaway which pic I wanted to use. These 9 crazy guys are not all mine - they are the grandchildren of my Mother-in-law ranging in age from 2 to 16. My Mother-in-law is a gentle kind and caring lady who adores her children, (and luckily for me her children's spouses too!) but I have never seen anyone so in love as she is with her grandchildren!

This picture symbolises what motherhood can result in - the bond that these cousins have is fabulous - you don't mess with the Costello cousins!

We get together fairly often - most Saturdays down at Grandmas in fact and the kids have a whale of a time. This picture was taken at my Mother-in-laws 70th birthday celebration last October - you knew in the restaurant when we had all arrived!

Julie,- thanks for being a great Mother and providing me with my wonderful husband and my lovely children (2nd and 3rd from the bottom). I hope when I grow up I become half as good a mother! x

Monday, 14 June 2010

Book Review - Della Says 'OMG' by Keris Stainton

Ages since I did a book review but rest assured lots of reading has been done around here!

I have also been lucky enough to attend 2 book launches and meet the authors - both of which were sooo lovely!

The first event was hosted by the fabulous Keris Stainton who I have got to know through Twitter and was to celebrate the launch of her debut novel Della Says 'OMG!'
This was billed as a Young Adult book but as with a lot of YA novels can be enjoyed by all ages. (I don't think I fit into the YA category anymore sadly!)

The story is of Della, a teenager who discovers her diary has gone missing and later finds sections of it popping up in embarrassing places. This book has it all intrigue (who took the diary?), romance (expertly written), humour (real laugh out loud moments!) and even a bit of food thrown in just for me!

I can highly recommend this book - a perfect beach read (which is where I read mine and so now my lovely signed copy is covered in sand!)

Coming next - another book review Caroline Smailes, Like Bees to Honey

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

The Gallery - Friendship

I have had a couple of week's off The Gallery but new immediately when I saw this week's prompt that I wanted to take part. My friends are really important to me and I am so lucky that I have so many wonderful friends. We are spread quite far and wide (luckily I have some on my doorstep too!) and each time I spend time (both physically and on-line-ally)with my friends I feel all warm and fuzzy and know how lucky I am.

My girls seem to be like me and love spending time with others - there are few things more lovely than watching your kids making new friends and building relationships.

My picture this week was taken at one of the 4 parties my 7yo attended after her recent First Holy Communion - This was the class party and my word did they have fun?! It was lovely to see all the children mixing and just having enormous fun- a memory I'm sure they will always have. I remember my First Holy Communion party, do you?

The first picture shows the little ladies chatting (my little girl is the one with the yellow dress and the drink in her hand - just like her mother!!) I love how happy she is suurounded by her friends.

I especially love the sencond picture which was just moments later when the scene descended into mayhem with boys doing what they do best - having fun and climbing!

Book Review - Mister Teacher - Jack Sheffield

The last book review I did followed on from an author event I recently attended. Me being me decided that I had to order not 1 but 2 of the author's books and I have just finished the second.

The first book in the series was a hit and I expected more of the same from the second - and I got it. These are easy to read books but not necessarily speedy reads. Again there were elements of the books that had me laughing out loud (I cannot bring myself to say 'LOL' Ugh!)

By now the Headteacher is well settled into life in Ragley Village (A fictional village but the stories are based loosely on the author's real life as a Headteacher)
Most of the old characters appear along with some new ones - The lady who runs the Newsagent is brill!

There is an off and on love saga with Beth and some rivlary between her and her sister, Laura. I know it sounds like a contradiction but the love interest is what I kept reading for but also the bit that irritated me somewhat. I won't spoil the story but there is a cracking cliffhanger at the end (and yes, I will be reading the 3rd book) but I find myself wanting to say to Jack to bin Beth off - she's messing you about. I bet he won't listen!

All in all, another great read!

What's next? 2 more author events and reviews of Della Says: OMG by the delightful Keris Stainton and Like Bees to Honey by the lovely Caroline Smailes

Since I wrote this post I have received an e-mail from Jack Shefield himself (squeal!). He thanked me for the review and said I had the measure of the Jack, Beth and Laura scenario and to watch this space - who knows perhaps he might listen to the voice of reason?! I am now even more determined to get book 3 and see how the story continues! Oh well another book to add to the TBR pile(s)

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

The Return and the books in my life

A massive gap between blogging I know, but I am back (AGAIN!) Real life really does seem to get in the way of this blogging lark but thats the way I'd always have it be. Lots of exciting things have happened in Casa Costello over the last month (to be blogged at a later date!)

As a result, reading and potential book reviews have really suffered so the book reviews for April are I'm afraid pitiful!

Zoe Heller - The Believers

A none finisher I'm sad to say ... I tried, I really did but just couldn't get to grips with this book. I couldn't even get any sort of story out of it but maybe that would have come together at the end. I felt I was just reading about a family set in current times that I just couldn't get to know and ultimately care for. Just words.

Teacher Teacher - Jack Sheffield

Every now and again, we attend author events at our local library and this was the last one. Jack Sheffield's stories are based on diaries detailing his life and work as a Headteacher in the wonderful North of Yorkshire. The school in question is set in the fictional place of Ragley and the characters are loosely based on people everyone of us must know. The front cover says that if you like Gervase Phinn, you will love these books. I have read Gervase Phinn and enjoyed them but feel Jack's books are better. There seems to be more about him as a human rather than just the job - and you find yourself wanting to know how things turn out. I have heard critisisms of this style of book that the anecdotes feel a little forced and how can things turn out so well - I like to look through that and think of it as clever writing. There are really humurous points in this first book (I think he is currently writing his 5th in the series) - Anyone who doesn't laugh aloud at 'Tonso Lighthouse' is a misery! I am half way through the second book in the series, Mister Teacher and enjoying that too. Hurrah!

Next book reviews = More Jack Sheffield and a concerted effort to reduce that TBR pile!

Thursday, 29 April 2010

The Gallery - A very pink member of our household

This week's theme for Tara Cain's Gallery is Portrait.

According to The Free Online Dictionary a portrait is a verbal picture or description, especially of a person.

I took 'especially of a person' to mean that it didn't actually have to be a person! And so here is a very important member of our household.

Meet Ellie the Pink Elephant - She belongs to Violet, our youngest daughter and was a present from a friend when she was 5 months old. I have to admit when I saw her for the first time I thought 'oh great another dust collector' but isn't it strange how some things just click?

Ellie has been everywhere with us in the past three years - She is somewhat paler than she used to be, has had many washes after being vomitted upon, been lost a few times (last found under the shelving at Tesco after a hellish fortnight for us - which shows how often they clean under their shelves!) and has recently had a restuffing courtesy of my mother!

Have you got any unusual members of your household that just seem to have always been there?

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

My Lovely Dad MBE - The Gallery Week 7 - Joy

I have even dispensed with the TV Theme titles for this week's Gallery (Had anyone even noticed?)

This week's Gallery subject is Joy.

This is my lovely Dad - He became a Master of the British Empire in 2001 for services to the Employment Service. This is a true case of the right person receiving credit where credit is due. My Dad was a quiet, gentle and wonderful person who never craved attention and appreciated everything he had.

The couple of days we spent in London when Dad met the Queen were simply joyful. 6 of us went down (Mum, Dad, the 3 daughters and my husband). We were only allocated 3 tickets into Buckingham Palace which my Mum amazingly gave to us 3 daughters. I have never felt as nervous as when Dad's 'turn' was coming up - I really didn't want him to trip or break any of the millions of rules - He didn't - it was just wonderful! (I broke a rule by taking a piece of Buckingham Palace toilet roll home but we won't say anymore about how classy I am!) I have probably committed treason or similar by copying the official photo too!

An added bonus was always going to be which celebrity received their honours during the same ceremony - We got Jeremy Beadle MBE! Oh well!

After Buckingham Palace, we met up with Mum and my husband and had a trip on the then new London Eye and a sightseeing tour around London followed by a show.

The next day was Dad's 60th and the day he officially retired and time for home - We were upgraded to 1st class when the driver heard about what we were celebrating.

All in all, a wonderful time to be together and see the most wonderful man get some of the attention he deserved.

My Dad passed away a year ago next week - We are all still devastated and will always miss and love you. x

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Ugly Betty - The Gallery - Week 6

Wow, what a challenge this week was! There has been loads of talk on Twitter about this week's Gallery subject ...UGLY! I can't even think about the word without singing u.g.l.y, you ain't got no alibi ....Can you? No then, perhaps that's just my music taste!

Anywhoo, back to the task. My immediate thoughts were self-deprecation and posting a picture of me - but I haven't spent all my 21 years (cough!) building up my self-estemm to blow it in one fell swoop - Can you imagine how many comments I would receive though?!

Other items I thought of posting:

* Husband's feet (But they are never still enough and might break the camera)
* The Bottom of the wheely bin (too distressing to go near!)
* The cat sick underneath the trampoline that I am trying to pretend I haven't seen
* Most areas of St Helens

I really don't do UGLY - I even work with pretty things for a living (making cakes in case anyone has been living in a cave for the past 4 years)

So I thought, where am I going during the week that I might encounter ugliness...The Lake District!!! Bloody hell, its one of the lovliest places on earth!

So here is what I came up with - A Sheep! From afar they are cute little white dots on the landscape but nearby? Not so pretty and wooly are you now? This isn't the ugliest sheep we saw but the real minger was so grumpy she did a runner before the camera came out - She really has broken a lens or two in her time.

So Ewe ...Ewe are my ugly post for the week - balanced out by a gratuitous country shot of my children (who are definately not ugly - although this was one of my fears when they were in the womb - but thats a post for another day!)

For other, far better Gallery Posts, visit Tara Cain's Sticky Fingers and laugh or weep with the best of them!

Monday, 5 April 2010

Roulette Nation - Carbon Diaries 2015 - Saci Lloyd - Book Review

Another book Review and I have to admit this book took me longer to read than I anticipated. I really wanted to read this book as I hear so much about our Carbon Footprint and wonder if my thoughts are the same as others.

I'm sure it will come as no surprise that this book is set in 2015 when Climate Change is so dramatic that Carbon Rationing has been introduced in the UK. The book folows the story of teenage Laura as she and her family struggle to deal with the effects that Carbon Rationing have on their lives.

This book is billed as a Young Adult category but sadly I didn't enjoy it quite as much as some other YA books I have read. I felt sometimes the story was a little slapstick and far-fetched but loved other parts.

There were moments that really made me stop and think about the effect on daily life of carbon Rationing such as the impact on Travel & Tourism and consequently people's livelihoods - I thought it was clever that Laura's Dad was a travel & Tourism lecturer rather than something more obvious like a pilot.

All in all, I found the book mainly enjoyable but was glad when I finished as there are others I am desperate to read!

I would give this book a 3 out of 5 star rating.

Would it be made into a film/tv programme - Perhaps it needs to be to make us think about the consequences our actions are having on the planet!

Coming up soon ... Zoe Heller - The Believers

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Neighbours ...Welcome to The Gallery

This picture is the one I think of when I think of The View From My Front Door I am adding this picture (I know its not a very good one but then I'm no photographer!) as part of a challenge set by Tara Cain of Sticky Fingers blog. Each week Tara sets a theme for your photo and you add it on a Wednesday. This is my first week - For everyone else's previous 4 weeks visit here

We didn't have to include a literal picture from our road but I love this - This was a street party that I helped organise last year to support the Big Lunch started by the Eden Project. The aim being to get people meeting their community. Ours certainly worked - we got at least 70% of our road involved and the day was brilliant - We had a disco, competitions, treasure hunt, tug of war, karaoke and lots more. We have since had a bulb planting party to prepare for this year's Big Lunch in July and I can honestly say our street community is fantastic since. Its lovely to see all neighbours of all ages speaking - in fact tonight I am going to the second Percval Way Ladies Boozy Do! Best get ready!

For the rest of the pictures for this week (and there are some brilliant ones!) Click on the mug!

Monday, 29 March 2010

Something for the weekend - Prep - Curtis Sittenfield

Time for the first book review and what a book to start with! - Prep by Curtis Sittenfield.

I was in the mood for a good read to help me escape and this book definately delivered that. It is certainly a grown up Malory Towers book set in a boarding school about a girl who feels she is always on the outside looking in. I believe this book was banned from school reading lists in part of the US described as 'pornographic' - I wouldn't go that far but its not a book to lend to your mother-in-law - It does get rather rude about 3/4 way through!

It is a very easy read and one that leaves you feeling a little lost when you have finished.

I loved this book as I loved one of Curtis' other books - American Wife I would definately recommend her.

The good bits...Easy to read, unputdownable!

What could be improved...I occasionally got a little irritated with the main character - I wanted her to have more self respect. She was also incredibly rude to her parents which I know we all were when we were teenagers but even so it did feel a bit awkward.

Will it be made into a film?...Possibly not

Marks out of 5 = A massive 5!!

What else am I reading? Carbon Diaries 2015 bu Saci Lloyd - More later this week!

The Bill ...

After much deliberating I have finally set up my personal blog and here it is! I have had a business blog Aardvark Cakes for a couple of years now but never had the courage to write personal items on it (Too many people I know read it!) I now want a record of the comings and goings of our lives and have found out that the internet and the people on it do not have to be as scary as they are made out to be.

I anticipate including posts about reading, children (but will try not to be too indulgent!) and pretty products and who knows what else - Lets let the adventure take us! I do not promise wonderful writing skills and my photography skills stink but fun I will have trying! I am going to attempt to join The Gallery at Tara Cain's Sticky Fingers - Have a nosy at the fantastic entries each week!

So let the journey commence ...